The Swiss Family Robinson; or Adventures in a Desert Island
Johann David Wyss
Part 1 out of 7
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THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON;
OR, ADVENTURES IN A DESERT ISLAND.
WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN GILBERT.
[Illustration: THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON]
[Illustration: "Our first care was to kneel down and thank God, to whom
we owed our lives."]
Many years ago, an English translation of the first part of this
charming tale appeared; and few books have obtained such deserved
popularity. The gradual progress of the family from utter destitution
and misery, to happiness and abundance, arising from their own labour,
perseverance, and obedience, together with the effect produced on the
different characters of the sons by the stirring adventures they met
with, created a deep and absorbing interest. Every young reader
patronized either the noble Fritz, the studious Ernest, or the generous
Jack, and regarded him as a familiar personal acquaintance. The book had
but one defect--the death of the talented author left it unfinished, and
every reader regretted its abrupt termination.
This conclusion was happily supplied by one of the most accomplished and
elegant writers of her day, the Baroness de Montolieu; and, sanctioned
and approved by the son of the lamented author, the entire work was
published in France, and has for many years held a distinguished rank in
the juvenile libraries there. For the gratification of a little family
circle, this now appears in English; and as, on examining the first part
in the original, it was found, that "some new discoveries might be
made," it was thought best to re-translate it, subduing the tone of the
whole to English taste. The unanimous voices of the beloved circle, for
whom the pleasant task was undertaken, have pronounced the result to be
eminently successful, and they generously wish, that the whole of the
juvenile public of England should share in their satisfaction, and
possess _a complete Swiss Robinson_.
It is very well known that, some years ago, Counsellor Horner, a Swiss,
made a voyage round the world in the Russian vessel _Le Podesda_,
commanded by Capt. Krusenstern. They discovered many islands, and,
amongst others, one very large and fertile, till then unknown to
navigators, to the S.W. of Java, near the coast of New Guinea. They
landed here, and to the great surprise of Mr. Horner, he was received by
a family who spoke to him in German. They were a father and mother, and
four robust and hardy sons.
Their history was very interesting. The father was a Swiss clergyman,
who, in the Revolution of 1798, had lost all his fortune, and had
determined to emigrate, in order to seek elsewhere the means of
supporting his family. He went first to England, with his wife and
children, consisting of four sons, between the ages of twelve and five.
He there undertook the office of missionary to Otaheite; not that he
intended to remain on that uncivilized island, but he wished to proceed
from thence to Port Jackson as a free colonist. He invested his little
capital in seeds of every description, and some cattle, to take out with
him. They had a prosperous voyage till they were near the coast of New
Guinea, when they were overtaken by a frightful storm. At this period he
commenced his journal, which he afterwards committed to the care of Mr.
Horner, to be forwarded to his friends in Switzerland.
Some time before, a boat from an English vessel, the _Adventurer_, had
visited them, and the father had sent the first part of his journal by
Lieut. Bell to the captain, who remained in the vessel. A violent
tempest arose, which continued some days, and drove the _Adventurer_
from the coast. The family concluded the ship was lost; but this was not
the case, as will be seen in the conclusion.
* * * * *
The tempest had raged for six days, and on the seventh seemed to
increase. The ship had been so far driven from its course, that no one
on board knew where we were. Every one was exhausted with fatigue and
watching. The shattered vessel began to leak in many places, the oaths
of the sailors were changed to prayers, and each thought only how to
save his own life. "Children," said I, to my terrified boys, who were
clinging round me, "God can save us if he will. To him nothing is
impossible; but if he thinks it good to call us to him, let us not
murmur; we shall not be separated." My excellent wife dried her tears,
and from that moment became more tranquil. We knelt down to pray for the
help of our Heavenly Father; and the fervour and emotion of my innocent
boys proved to me that even children can pray, and find in prayer
consolation and peace.
We rose from our knees strengthened to bear the afflictions that hung
over us. Suddenly we heard amid the roaring of the waves the cry of
"Land! land!" At that moment the ship struck on a rock; the concussion
threw us down. We heard a loud cracking, as if the vessel was parting
asunder; we felt that we were aground, and heard the captain cry, in a
tone of despair, "We are lost! Launch the boats!" These words were a
dagger to my heart, and the lamentations of my children were louder than
ever. I then recollected myself, and said, "Courage, my darlings, we are
still, above water, and the land is near. God helps those who trust in
him. Remain here, and I will endeavour to save us."
I went on deck, and was instantly thrown down, and wet through by a huge
sea; a second followed. I struggled boldly with the waves, and succeeded
in keeping myself up, when I saw, with terror, the extent of our
wretchedness. The shattered vessel was almost in two; the crew had
crowded into the boats, and the last sailor was cutting the rope. I
cried out, and prayed them to take us with them; but my voice was
drowned in the roar of the tempest, nor could they have returned for us
through waves that ran mountains high. All hope from their assistance
was lost; but I was consoled by observing that the water did not enter
the ship above a certain height. The stern, under which lay the cabin
which contained all that was dear to me on earth, was immovably fixed
between two rocks. At the same time I observed, towards the south,
traces of land, which, though wild and barren, was now the haven of my
almost expiring hopes; no longer being able to depend on any human aid.
I returned to my family, and endeavoured to appear calm. "Take courage,"
cried I, "there is yet hope for us; the vessel, in striking between the
rocks, is fixed in a position which protects our cabin above the water,
and if the wind should settle to-morrow, we may possibly reach
This assurance calmed my children, and as usual, they depended on all I
told them; they rejoiced that the heaving of the vessel had ceased, as,
while it lasted, they were continually thrown against each other. My
wife, more accustomed to read my countenance, discovered my uneasiness;
and by a sign, I explained to her that I had lost all hope. I felt great
consolation in seeing that she supported our misfortune with truly
"Let us take some food," said she; "with the body, the mind is
strengthened; this must be a night of trial."
Night came, and the tempest continued its fury; tearing away the planks
from the devoted vessel with a fearful crashing. It appeared absolutely
impossible that the boats could have out-lived the storm.
My wife had prepared some refreshment, of which the children partook
with an appetite that we could not feel. The three younger ones retired
to their beds, and soon slept soundly. Fritz, the eldest, watched with
me. "I have been considering," said he, "how we could save ourselves. If
we only had some cork jackets, or bladders, for mamma and my brothers,
you and I don't need them, we could then swim to land."
"A good thought," said I, "I will try during the night to contrive some
expedient to secure our safety." We found some small empty barrels in
the cabin, which we tied two together with our handkerchiefs, leaving a
space between for each child; and fastened this new swimming apparatus
under their arms. My wife prepared the same for herself. We then
collected some knives, string, tinder-box, and such little necessaries
as we could put in our pockets; thus, in case the vessel should fall to
pieces during the night, we hoped we might be enabled to reach land.
At length Fritz, overcome with fatigue, lay down and slept with his
brothers. My wife and I, too anxious to rest, spent that dreadful night
in prayer, and in arranging various plans. How gladly we welcomed the
light of day, shining through an opening. The wind was subsiding, the
sky serene, and I watched the sun rise with renewed hope. I called my
wife and children on deck. The younger ones were surprised to find we
were alone. They inquired what had become of the sailors, and how we
should manage the ship alone.
"Children," said I, "one more powerful than man has protected us till
now, and will still extend a saving arm to us, if we do not give way to
complaint and despair. Let all hands set to work. Remember that
excellent maxim, God helps those who help themselves. Let us all
consider what is best to do now."
"Let us leap into the sea," cried Fritz, "and swim to the shore."
"Very well for you," replied Ernest, "who can swim; but we should be all
drowned. Would it not be better to construct a raft and go all
"That might do," added I, "if we were strong enough for such a work, and
if a raft was not always so dangerous a conveyance. But away, boys,
look about you, and seek for anything that may be useful to us."
We all dispersed to different parts of the vessel. For my own part I
went to the provision-room, to look after the casks of water and other
necessaries of life; my wife visited the live stock and fed them, for
they were almost famished; Fritz sought for arms and ammunition; Ernest
for the carpenter's tools. Jack had opened the captain's cabin, and was
immediately thrown down by two large dogs, who leaped on him so roughly
that he cried out as if they were going to devour him. However, hunger
had rendered them so docile that they licked his hands, and he soon
recovered his feet, seized the largest by the ears, and mounting his
back, gravely rode up to me as I was coming from the hold. I could not
help laughing; I applauded his courage; but recommended him always to be
prudent with animals of that kind, who are often dangerous when hungry.
My little troop began to assemble. Fritz had found two fowling-pieces,
some bags of powder and shot, and some balls, in horn flasks. Ernest was
loaded with an axe and hammer, a pair of pincers, a large pair of
scissors, and an auger showed itself half out of his pocket.
Francis had a large box under his arm, from which he eagerly produced
what he called little pointed hooks. His brothers laughed at his prize.
"Silence," said I, "the youngest has made the most valuable addition to
our stores. These are fish-hooks, and may be more useful for the
preservation of our lives than anything the ship contains. However,
Fritz and Ernest have not done amiss."
"For my part," said my wife, "I only contribute good news; I have
found a cow, an ass, two goats, six sheep, and a sow with young. I have
fed them, and hope we may preserve them."
"Very well," said I to my little workmen, "I am satisfied with all but
Master Jack, who, instead of anything useful, has contributed two great
eaters, who will do us more harm than good."
"They can help us to hunt when we get to land," said Jack.
"Yes," replied I, "but can you devise any means of our getting there?"
"It does not seem at all difficult," said the spirited little fellow;
"put us each into a great tub, and let us float to shore. I remember
sailing capitally that way on godpapa's great pond at S--."
"A very good idea, Jack; good counsel may sometimes be given even by a
child. Be quick, boys, give me the saw and auger, with some nails, we
will see what we can do." I remembered seeing some empty casks in the
hold. We went down and found them floating. This gave us less difficulty
in getting them upon the lower deck, which was but just above the water.
They were of strong wood, bound with iron hoops, and exactly suited my
purpose; my sons and I therefore began to saw them through the middle.
After long labour, we had eight tubs all the same height. We refreshed
ourselves with wine and biscuit, which we had found in some of the
casks. I then contemplated with delight my little squadron of boats
ranged in a line; and was surprised that my wife still continued
depressed. She looked mournfully on them. "I can never venture in one of
these tubs," said she.
"Wait a little, till my work is finished," replied I, "and you will see
it is more to be depended on than this broken vessel."
I sought out a long flexible plank, and arranged eight tubs on it, close
to each other, leaving a piece at each end to form a curve upwards, like
the keel of a vessel. We then nailed them firmly to the plank, and to
each other. We nailed a plank at each side, of the same length as the
first, and succeeded in producing a sort of boat, divided into eight
compartments, in which it did not appear difficult to make a short
voyage, over a calm sea.
But, unluckily, our wonderful vessel proved so heavy, that our united
efforts could not move it an inch. I sent Fritz to bring me the
jack-screw, and, in the mean time, sawed a thick round pole into pieces;
then raising the fore-part of our work by means of the powerful machine,
Fritz placed one of these rollers under it.
Ernest was very anxious to know how this small machine could accomplish
more than our united strength. I explained to him, as well as I could,
the power of the lever of Archimedes, with which he had declared he
could move the world, if he had but a point to rest it on; and I
promised my son to take the machine to pieces when we were on shore, and
explain the mode of operation. I then told them that God, to compensate
for the weakness of man, had bestowed on him reason, invention, and
skill in workmanship. The result of these had produced a science which,
under the name of _Mechanics_, taught us to increase and extend our
limited powers incredibly by the aid of instruments.
Jack remarked that the jack-screw worked very slowly.
"Better slowly, than not at all," said I. "It is a principle in
mechanics, that what is gained in time is lost in power. The jack is not
meant to work rapidly, but to raise heavy weights; and the heavier the
weight, the slower the operation. But, can you tell me how we can make
up for this slowness?"
"Oh, by turning the handle quicker, to be sure!"
"Quite wrong; that would not aid us at all. Patience and Reason are the
two fairies, by whose potent help I hope to get our boat afloat."
I quickly proceeded to tie a strong cord to the after-part of it, and
the other end to a beam in the ship, which was still firm, leaving it
long enough for security; then introducing two more rollers underneath,
and working with the jack, we succeeded in launching our bark, which
passed into the water with such velocity, that but for our rope it would
have gone out to sea. Unfortunately, it leaned so much on one side, that
none of the boys would venture into it. I was in despair, when I
suddenly remembered it only wanted ballast to keep it in equilibrium. I
hastily threw in anything I got hold of that was heavy, and soon had my
boat level, and ready for occupation. They now contended who should
enter first; but I stopped them, reflecting that these restless children
might easily capsize our vessel. I remembered that savage nations made
use of an out-rigger, to prevent their canoe oversetting, and this I
determined to add to my work. I fixed two portions of a topsail-yard,
one over the prow, the other across the stern, in such a manner that
they should not be in the way in pushing off our boat from the wreck. I
forced the end of each yard into the bunghole of an empty brandy-cask,
to keep them steady during our progress.
It was now necessary to clear the way for our departure. I got into the
first tub, and managed to get the boat into the cleft in the ship's
side, by way of a haven; I then returned, and, with the axe and saw, cut
away right and left all that could obstruct our passage. Then we secured
some oars, to be ready for our voyage next day.
The day had passed in toil, and we were compelled to spend another night
on the wreck, though we knew it might not remain till morning. We took a
regular meal, for during the day we had scarcely had time to snatch a
morsel of bread and a glass of wine. More composed than on the preceding
night, we retired to rest. I took the precaution to fasten the swimming
apparatus across the shoulders of my three younger children and my wife,
for fear another storm might destroy the vessel, and cast us into the
sea. I also advised my wife to put on a sailor's dress, as more
convenient for her expected toils and trials. She reluctantly consented,
and, after a short absence, appeared in the dress of a youth who had
served as a volunteer in the vessel. She felt very timid and awkward in
her new dress; but I showed her the advantage of the change, and, at
last, she was reconciled, and joined in the laughter of the children at
her strange disguise. She then got into her hammock, and we enjoyed a
pleasant sleep, to prepare us for new labours.
* * * * *
At break of day we were awake and ready, and after morning prayer, I
addressed my children thus: "We are now, my dear boys, with the help of
God, about to attempt our deliverance. Before we go, provide our poor
animals with food for some days: we cannot take them with us, but if our
voyage succeed, we may return for them. Are you ready? Collect what you
wish to carry away, but only things absolutely necessary for our actual
wants." I planned that our first cargo should consist of a barrel of
powder, three fowling-pieces, three muskets, two pair of pocket pistols,
and one pair larger, ball, shot, and lead as much as we could carry,
with a bullet-mould; and I wished each of my sons, as well as their
mother, should have a complete game-bag, of which there were several in
the officers' cabins. We then set apart a box of portable soup, another
of biscuit, an iron pot, a fishing-rod, a chest of nails, and one of
carpenter's tools, also some sailcloth to make a tent. In fact my boys
collected so many things, we were compelled to leave some behind, though
I exchanged all the useless ballast for necessaries.
When all was ready, we implored the blessing of God on our undertaking,
and prepared to embark in our tubs. At this moment the cocks crowed a
sort of reproachful farewell to us; we had forgotten them; I immediately
proposed to take our poultry with us, geese, ducks, fowls and pigeons,
for, as I observed to my wife, if we could not feed them, they would, at
any rate, feed us. We placed our ten hens and two cocks in a covered
tub; the rest we set at liberty, hoping the geese and ducks might reach
the shore by water, and the pigeons by flight.
We waited a little for my wife, who came loaded with a large bag, which
she threw into the tub that contained her youngest son. I concluded it
was intended to steady him, or for a seat, and made no observation on
it. Here follows the order of our embarkation. In the first division,
sat the tender mother, the faithful and pious wife. In the second, our
amiable little Francis, six years old, and of a sweet disposition.
In the third, Fritz, our eldest, fourteen or fifteen years old, a
curly-headed, clever, intelligent and lively youth.
In the fourth, the powder-cask, with the fowls and the sailcloth.
Our provisions filled the fifth.
In the sixth, our heedless Jack, ten years old, enterprising, bold, and
In the seventh, Ernest, twelve years of age, well-informed and rational,
but somewhat selfish and indolent. In the eighth, myself, an anxious
father, charged with the important duty of guiding the vessel to save my
dear family. Each of us had some useful tools beside us; each held an
oar, and had a swimming apparatus at hand, in case we were unfortunately
upset. The tide was rising when we left, which I considered might assist
my weak endeavours. We turned our out-riggers length-ways, and thus
passed from the cleft of the ship into the open sea. We rowed with all
our might, to reach the blue land we saw at a distance, but for some
time in vain, as the boat kept turning round, and made no progress. At
last I contrived to steer it, so that we went straight forward.
As soon as our dogs saw us depart, they leaped into the sea, and
followed us; I could not let them get into the boat, for fear they
should upset it. I was very sorry, for I hardly expected they would be
able to swim to land; but by occasionally resting their forepaws on our
out-riggers, they managed to keep up with us. Turk was an English dog,
and Flora of a Danish breed.
We proceeded slowly, but safely. The nearer we approached the land, the
more dreary and unpromising it appeared. The rocky coast seemed to
announce to us nothing but famine and misery. The waves, gently rippling
against the shore, were scattered over with barrels, bales, and chests
from the wreck. Hoping to secure some good provisions, I called on Fritz
for assistance; he held a cord, hammer, and nails, and we managed to
seize two hogsheads in passing, and fastening them with cords to our
vessel, drew them after us to the shore.
As we approached, the coast seemed to improve. The chain of rock was not
entire, and Fritz's hawk eye made out some trees, which he declared were
the cocoa-nut tree; Ernest was delighted at the prospect of eating these
nuts, so much larger and better than any grown in Europe. I was
regretting not having brought the large telescope from the captain's
cabin, when Jack produced from his pocket a smaller one, which he
offered me with no little pride.
This was a valuable acquisition, as I was now enabled to make the
requisite observations, and direct my course. The coast before us had a
wild and desert appearance,--it looked better towards the left; but I
could not approach that part, for a current which drove us towards the
rocky and barren shore. At length we saw, near the mouth of a rivulet, a
little creek between the rocks, towards which our geese and ducks made,
serving us for guides. This opening formed a little bay of smooth water,
just deep enough for our boat. I cautiously entered it, and landed at a
place where the coast was about the height of our tubs, and the water
deep enough to let us approach. The shore spread inland, forming a
gentle declivity of a triangular form, the point lost among the rocks,
and the base to the sea.
All that were able leaped on shore in a moment. Even little Francis, who
had been laid down in his tub, like a salted herring, tried to crawl
out, but was compelled to wait for his mother's assistance. The dogs,
who had preceded us in landing, welcomed us in a truly friendly manner,
leaping playfully around us; the geese kept up a loud cackling, to which
the yellow-billed ducks quacked a powerful bass. This, with the clacking
of the liberated fowls, and the chattering of the boys, formed a perfect
Babel; mingled with these, were the harsh cries of the penguins and
flamingoes, which hovered over our heads, or sat on the points of the
rocks. They were in immense numbers, and their notes almost deafened us,
especially as they did not accord with the harmony of our civilized
fowls. However I rejoiced to see these feathered creatures, already
fancying them on my table, if we were obliged to remain in this
Our first care, when we stepped in safety on land, was to kneel down
and thank God, to whom we owed our lives; and to resign ourselves wholly
to his Fatherly kindness.
We then began to unload our vessel. How rich we thought ourselves with
the little we had saved! We sought a convenient place for our tent,
under the shade of the rocks. We then inserted a pole into a fissure in
the rock; this, resting firmly on another pole fixed in the ground,
formed the frame of the tent. The sailcloth was then stretched over it,
and fastened down at proper distances, by pegs, to which, for greater
security, we added some boxes of provision; we fixed some hooks to the
canvas at the opening in front, that we might close the entrance during
the night. I sent my sons to seek some moss and withered grass, and
spread it in the sun to dry, to form our beds; and while all, even
little Francis, were busy with this, I constructed a sort of
cooking-place, at some distance from the tent, near the river which was
to supply us with fresh water. It was merely a hearth of flat stones
from the bed of the stream, fenced round with some thick branches. I
kindled a cheerful fire with some dry twigs, put on the pot, filled with
water and some squares of portable soup, and left my wife, with Francis
for assistant, to prepare dinner. He took the portable soup for glue,
and could not conceive how mamma could make soup, as we had no meat, and
there were no butchers' shops here.
Fritz, in the mean time, had loaded our guns. He took one to the side of
the river; Ernest declined accompanying him, as the rugged road was not
to his taste; he preferred the sea-shore. Jack proceeded to a ridge of
rocks on the left, which ran towards the sea, to get some muscles. I
went to try and draw the two floating hogsheads on shore, but could not
succeed, for our landing-place was too steep to get them up. Whilst I
was vainly trying to find a more favourable place, I heard my dear Jack
uttering most alarming cries. I seized my hatchet, and ran to his
assistance. I found him up to the knees in a shallow pool, with a large
lobster holding his leg in its sharp claws. It made off at my approach;
but I was determined it should pay for the fright it had given me.
Cautiously taking it up, I brought it out, followed by Jack, who, now
very triumphant, wished to present it himself to his mother, after
watching how I held it. But he had hardly got it into his hands, when it
gave him such a violent blow on the cheek with its tail, that he let it
fall, and began to cry again. I could not help laughing at him, and, in
his rage, he seized a stone, and put an end to his adversary. I was
grieved at this, and recommended him never to act in a moment of anger,
showing him that he was unjust in being so revengeful; for, if he had
been bitten by the lobster, it was plain he would have eaten his foe if
he had conquered him. Jack promised to be more discreet and merciful in
future, and obtained leave to bear the prize to his mother.
"Mamma," said he, proudly, "a lobster! A lobster, Ernest! Where is
Fritz! Take care it does not bite you, Francis!" They all crowded round
in astonishment. "Yes," added he, triumphantly, "here is the impertinent
claw that seized me; but I repaid the knave,"
"You are a boaster," said I. "You would have got indifferently on with
the lobster, if I had not come up; and have you forgotten the slap on
the cheek which compelled you to release him? Besides, he only defended
himself with his natural arms; but you had to take a great stone. You
have no reason to be proud, Jack."
Ernest wished to have the lobster added to the soup to improve it; but
his mother, with a spirit of economy, reserved it for another day. I
then walked to the spot where Jack's lobster was caught, and, finding it
favourable for my purpose, drew my two hogsheads on shore there, and
secured them by turning them on end.
On returning, I congratulated Jack on being the first who had been
successful in foraging. Ernest remarked, that he had seen some oysters
attached to a rock, but could not get at them without wetting his feet,
which he did not like.
"Indeed, my delicate gentleman!" said I, laughing, "I must trouble you
to return and procure us some. We must all unite in working for the
public good, regardless of wet feet. The sun will soon dry us."
"I might as well bring some salt at the same time," said he; "I saw
plenty in the fissures of the rock, left by the sea, I should
"Doubtless, Mr. Reasoner," replied I; "where else could it have come
from? the fact was so obvious, that you had better have brought a
bagful, than delayed to reflect about it. But if you wish to escape
insipid soup, be quick and procure some."
He went, and returned with some salt, so mixed with sand and earth, that
I should have thrown it away as useless; but my wife dissolved it in
fresh water, and, filtering it through a piece of canvas, managed to
flavour our soup with it.
Jack asked why we could not have used sea-water; and I explained to him
that the bitter and nauseous taste of sea-water would have spoiled our
dinner. My wife stirred the soup with a little stick, and, tasting it,
pronounced it very good, but added, "We must wait for Fritz. And how
shall we eat our soup without plates or spoons? We cannot possibly raise
this large boiling pot to our heads, and drink out of it."
It was too true. We gazed stupified at our pot, and, at last, all burst
into laughter at our destitution, and our folly in forgetting such
"If we only had cocoa-nuts," said Ernest, "we might split them, and make
basins and spoons."
"_If_!" replied I--"but we have none! We might as well wish for a dozen
handsome silver spoons at once, if wishes were of any use."
"But," observed he, "we can use oyster-shells."
"A useful thought, Ernest; go directly and get the oysters; and,
remember, gentlemen, no complaints, though the spoons are without
handles, and you should dip your fingers into the bowl."
Off ran Jack, and was mid-leg in the water before Ernest got to him. He
tore down the oysters, and threw them to his idle brother, who filled
his handkerchief, taking care to put a large one into his pocket for his
own use; and they returned with their spoil.
Fritz had not yet appeared, and his mother was becoming uneasy, when we
heard him cheerfully hailing us at a distance. He soon came up, with a
feigned air of disappointment, and his hands behind him; but Jack, who
had glided round him, cried out, "A sucking pig! a sucking pig!" And he
then, with, great pride and satisfaction, produced his booty, which I
recognized, from the description of travellers, to be the _agouti_,
common in these regions, a swift animal, which burrows in the earth, and
lives on fruits and nuts; its flesh, something like that of the rabbit,
has an unpleasant flavour to Europeans.
All were anxious to know the particulars of the chase; but I seriously
reproved my son for his little fiction, and warned him never to use the
least deceit, even in jest. I then inquired where he had met with the
agouti. He told me he had been on the other side of the river, "a very
different place to this," continued he. "The shore lies low, and you can
have no idea of the number of casks, chests, planks, and all sorts of
things the sea has thrown up; shall we go and take possession of them?
And to-morrow, father, we ought to make another trip to the vessel, to
look after our cattle. We might, at least, bring away the cow. Our
biscuit would not be so hard dipped in milk."
"And very much nicer," added the greedy Ernest.
"Then," continued Fritz, "beyond the river there is rich grass for
pasturage, and a shady wood. Why should we remain in this barren
"Softly!" replied I, "there is a time for all things. To-morrow, and the
day after to-morrow will have their work. But first tell me, did you see
anything of our shipmates?"
"Not a trace of man, living or dead, on land or sea; but I saw an animal
more like a hog than this, but with feet like a hare; it leaped among
the grass, sometimes sitting upright, and rubbing its mouth with its
forepaws; sometimes seeking for roots, and gnawing them like a
squirrel. If I had not been afraid it would escape me, I would have
tried to take it alive, it seemed so very tame."
As we were talking, Jack had been trying, with many grimaces, to force
an oyster open with his knife. I laughed at his vain endeavours, and
putting some on the fire, showed him them open of themselves. I had no
taste for oysters myself; but as they are everywhere accounted a
delicacy, I advised my sons to try them. They all at first declined the
unattractive repast, except Jack, who, with great courage, closed his
eyes, and desperately swallowed one as if it had been medicine. The rest
followed his example, and then all agreed with me that oysters were not
good. The shells were soon plunged into the pot to bring out some of the
good soup; but scalding their fingers, it was who could cry out the
loudest. Ernest took his large shell from his pocket, cautiously filled
it with a good portion of soup, and set it down to cool, exulting in his
own prudence. "You have been very thoughtful, my dear Ernest," said I;
"but why are your thoughts always for yourself; so seldom for others? As
a punishment for your egotism, that portion must be given to our
faithful dogs. We can all dip our shells into the pot, the dogs cannot.
Therefore, they shall have your soup, and you must wait, and eat as we
do." My reproach struck his heart, and he placed his shell obediently on
the ground, which the dogs emptied immediately. We were almost as
hungry as they were, and were watching anxiously till the soup began to
cool; when we perceived that the dogs were tearing and gnawing Fritz's
agouti. The boys all cried out; Fritz was in a fury, took his gun,
struck the dogs, called them names, threw stones at them, and would have
killed them if I had not held him. He had actually bent his gun with
striking them. As soon as he would listen to me, I reproached him
seriously for his violence, and represented to him how much he had
distressed us, and terrified his mother; that he had spoiled his gun,
which might have been so useful to us, and had almost killed the poor
animals, who might be more so. "Anger," said I, "leads to every crime.
Remember Cain, who killed his brother in a fit of passion." "Oh,
father!" said he, in a voice of terror; and, acknowledging his error, he
asked pardon, and shed bitter tears.
Soon after our repast the sun set, and the fowls gathered round us, and
picked up the scattered crumbs of biscuit. My wife then took out her
mysterious bag, and drew from it some handfuls of grain to feed her
flock. She showed me also many other seeds of useful vegetables. I
praised her prudence, and begged her to be very economical, as these
seeds were of great value, and we could bring from the vessel some
spoiled biscuit for the fowls.
Our pigeons now flew among the rocks, the cocks and hens perched on the
frame of the tent, and the geese and ducks chose to roost in a marsh,
covered with bushes, near the sea. We prepared for our rest; we loaded
all our arms, then offered up our prayers together, thanking God for
his signal mercy to us, and commending ourselves to his care. When the
last ray of light departed, we closed our tent, and lay down on our
beds, close together. The children had remarked how suddenly the
darkness came on, from which I concluded we were not far from the
equator; for I explained to them, the more perpendicularly the rays of
the sun fall, the less their refraction; and consequently night comes on
suddenly when the sun is below the horizon.
Once more I looked out to see if all was quiet, then carefully closing
the entrance, I lay down. Warm as the day had been, the night was so
cold that we were obliged to crowd together for warmth. The children
soon slept, and when I saw their mother in her first peaceful sleep, my
own eyes closed, and our first night on the island passed comfortably.
* * * * *
At break of day I was waked by the crowing of the cock. I summoned my
wife to council, to consider on the business of the day. We agreed that
our first duty was to seek for our shipmates, and to examine the country
beyond the river before we came to any decisive resolution.
My wife saw we could not all go on this expedition, and courageously
agreed to remain with her three youngest sons, while Fritz, as the
eldest and boldest, should accompany me. I begged her to prepare
breakfast immediately, which she warned me would be scanty, as no soup
was provided. I asked for Jack's lobster; but it was not to be found.
Whilst my wife made the fire, and put on the pot, I called the children,
and asking Jack for the lobster, he brought it from a crevice in the
rock, where he had hidden it from the dogs, he said, who did not despise
"I am glad to see you profit by the misfortunes of others," said I; "and
now will you give up that large claw that caught your leg, and which I
promised you, to Fritz, as a provision for his journey?" All were
anxious to go on this journey, and leaped round me like little kids. But
I told them we could not all go. They must remain with their mother,
with Flora for a protector. Fritz and I would take Turk; with him and a
loaded gun I thought we should inspire respect. I then ordered Fritz to
tie up Flora, and get the guns ready.
Fritz blushed, and tried in vain to straighten his crooked gun. I let
him go on for some time, and then allowed him to take another; for I saw
he was penitent. The dogs, too, snarled, and would not let him approach
them. He wept, and begged some biscuit from his mother, declaring he
would give up his own breakfast to make his peace with the dogs. He fed
them, caressed them, and seemed to ask pardon. The dog is always
grateful; Flora soon licked his hands; Turk was more unrelenting,
appearing to distrust him. "Give him a claw of the lobster," said Jack;
"for I make you a present of the whole for your journey."
"Don't be uneasy about them," said Ernest, "they will certainly meet
with cocoa-nuts, as Robinson did, very different food to your wretched
lobster. Think of an almond as big as my head, with a large cup full of
"Pray, brother, bring me one, if you find any," said Francis.
We began our preparation; we each took a game-bag and a hatchet. I gave
Fritz a pair of pistols in addition to his gun, equipped myself in the
same way, and took care to carry biscuit and a flask of fresh water. The
lobster proved so hard at breakfast, that the boys did not object to our
carrying off the remainder; and, though the flesh is coarse, it is very
I proposed before we departed, to have prayers, and my thoughtless Jack
began to imitate the sound of church-bells--"Ding, dong! to prayers! to
prayers! ding, dong!" I was really angry, and reproved him severely for
jesting about sacred things. Then, kneeling down, I prayed God's
blessing on our undertaking, and his pardon for us all, especially for
him who had now so grievously sinned. Poor Jack came and kneeled by me,
weeping and begging for forgiveness from me and from God. I embraced
him, and enjoined him and his brothers to obey their mother. I then
loaded the guns I left with them, and charged my wife to keep near the
boat, their best refuge. We took leave of our friends with many tears,
as we did not know what dangers might assail us in an unknown region.
But the murmur of the river, which we were now approaching, drowned the
sound of their sobs, and we bent our thoughts on our journey.
The bank of the river was so steep, that we could only reach the bed at
one little opening, near the sea, where we had procured our water; but
here the opposite side was guarded by a ridge of lofty perpendicular
rocks. We were obliged to ascend the river to a place where it fell over
some rocks, some fragments of which having fallen, made a sort of
stepping-stones, which enabled us to cross with some hazard. We made our
way, with difficulty, through the high grass, withered by the sun,
directing our course towards the sea, in hopes of discovering some
traces of the boats, or the crew. We had scarcely gone a hundred yards,
when we heard a loud noise and rustling in the grass, which was as tall
as we were. We imagined we were pursued by some wild beast, and I was
gratified to observe the courage of Fritz, who, instead of running away,
calmly turned round and presented his piece. What was our joy when we
discovered that the formidable enemy was only our faithful Turk, whom we
had forgotten in our distress, and our friends had doubtless dispatched
him after us! I applauded my son's presence of mind; a rash act might
have deprived us of this valuable friend.
We continued our way: the sea lay to our left; on our right, at a short
distance, ran the chain of rocks, which were continued from our
landing-place, in a line parallel to the sea; the summits clothed with
verdure and various trees. Between the rocks and the sea, several little
woods extended, even to the shore, to which we kept as close as
possible, vainly looking out on land or sea for any trace of our crew.
Fritz proposed to fire his gun, as a signal to them, if they should be
near us; but I reminded him that this signal might bring the ravages
round us, instead of our friends.
[Illustration: "We rested in the shade, near a clear stream, and took
He then inquired why we should search after those persons at all, who
so unfeelingly abandoned us on the wreck.
"First," said I, "we must not return evil for evil. Besides, they may
assist us, or be in need of our assistance. Above all, remember, they
could save nothing but themselves. We have got many useful things which
they have as much right to as we."
"But we might be saving the lives of our cattle," said he.
"We should do our duty better by saving the life of a man," answered I;
"besides, our cattle have food for some days, and the sea is so calm
there is no immediate danger."
We proceeded, and entering a little wood that extended to the sea, we
rested in the shade, near a clear stream, and took some refreshment. We
were surrounded by unknown birds, more remarkable for brilliant plumage
than for the charm of their voice. Fritz thought he saw some monkeys
among the leaves, and Turk began to be restless, smelling about, and
barking very loud. Fritz was gazing up into the trees, when he fell over
a large round substance, which he brought to me, observing that it might
be a bird's nest. I thought it more likely to be a cocoa-nut. The
fibrous covering had reminded him of the description he had read of the
nests of certain birds; but, on breaking the shell, we found it was
indeed a cocoa-nut, but quite decayed and uneatable.
Fritz was astonished; where was the sweet milk that Ernest had talked
I told him the milk was only in the half-ripe nuts; that it thickened
and hardened as the nut ripened, becoming a kernel. This nut had
perished from remaining above ground. If it had been in the earth, it
would have vegetated, and burst the shell. I advised my son to try if he
could not find a perfect nut.
After some search, we found one, and sat down to eat it, keeping our own
provision for dinner. The nut was somewhat rancid; but we enjoyed it,
and then continued our journey. We were some time before we got through
the wood, being frequently obliged to clear a road for ourselves,
through the entangled brushwood, with our hatchets. At last we entered
the open plain again, and had a clear view before us. The forest still
extended about a stone's throw to our right, and Fritz, who was always
on the look-out for discoveries, observed a remarkable tree, here and
there, which he approached to examine; and he soon called me to see this
wonderful tree, with wens growing on the trunk.
On coming up, I was overjoyed to find this tree, of which there were a
great number, was the gourd-tree, which bears fruit on the trunk. Fritz
asked if these were sponges. I told him to bring me one, and I would
explain the mystery.
"There is one," said he, "very like a pumpkin, only harder outside."
"Of this shell," said I, "we can make plates, dishes, basins, and
flasks. We call it the gourd-tree."
Fritz leaped for joy. "Now my dear mother will be able to serve her soup
properly." I asked him if he knew why the tree bore the fruit on its
trunk, or on the thick branches only. He immediately replied, that the
smaller branches would not bear the weight of the fruit. He asked me if
this fruit was eatable. "Harmless, I believe," said I; "but by no means
delicate. Its great value to savage nations consists in the shell, which
they use to contain their food, and drink, and even cook in it." Fritz
could not comprehend how they could cook in the shell without burning
it. I told him the shell was not placed on the fire; but, being filled
with cold water, and the fish or meat placed in it, red-hot stones are,
by degrees, introduced into the water, till it attains sufficient heat
to cook the food, without injuring the vessel. We then set about making
our dishes and plates. I showed Fritz a better plan of dividing the
gourd than with a knife. I tied a string tightly round the nut, struck
it with the handle of my knife till an incision was made, then tightened
it till the nut was separated into two equally-sized bowls. Fritz had
spoiled his gourd by cutting it irregularly with his knife. I advised
him to try and make spoons of it, as it would not do for basins now. I
told him I had learnt my plan from books of travels. It is the practice
of the savages, who have no knives, to use a sort of string, made from
the bark of trees, for this purpose. "But how can they make bottles,"
said he. "That requires some preparation," replied I. "They tie a
bandage round the young gourd near the stalk, so that the part at
liberty expands in a round form, and the compressed part remains narrow.
They then open the top, and extract the contents by putting in pebbles
and shaking it. By this means they have a complete bottle."
We worked on. Fritz completed a dish and some plates, to his great
satisfaction, but we considered, that being so frail, we could not
carry them with us. We therefore filled them with sand, that the sun
might not warp them, and left them to dry, till we returned.
As we went on, Fritz amused himself with cutting spoons from the rind of
the gourd, and I tried to do the same with the fragments of the
cocoa-nut; but I must confess my performances were inferior to those I
had seen in the museum in London, the work of the South Sea islanders.
We laughed at our spoons, which would have required mouths from ear to
ear to eat with them. Fritz declared that the curve of the rind was the
cause of that defect: if the spoons had been smaller, they would have
been flat; and you might as well eat soup with an oyster-shell as with
While we talked, we did not neglect looking about for our lost
companions, but in vain. At last, we arrived at a place where a tongue
of land ran to some distance into the sea, on which was an elevated
spot, favourable for observation. We attained the summit with great
labour, and saw before us a magnificent prospect of land and water; but
with all the aid our excellent telescope gave us, we could in no
direction discover any trace of man. Nature only appeared in her
greatest beauty. The shore enclosed a large bay, which terminated on the
other side in a promontory. The gentle rippling of the waves, the varied
verdure of the woods, and the multitude of novelties around us, would
have filled us with delight, but for the painful recollection of those
who, we now were compelled to believe, were buried beneath that
glittering water. We did not feel less, however, the mercy of God, who
had preserved us, and given us a home, with a prospect of subsistence
and safety. We had not yet met with any dangerous animals, nor could we
perceive any huts of savages. I remarked to my son that God seemed to
have destined us to a solitary life in this rich country, unless some
vessel should reach these shores. "And His will be done!" added I; "it
must be for the best. Now let us retire to that pretty wood to rest
ourselves, and eat our dinner, before we return."
We proceeded towards a pleasant wood of palm-trees; but before reaching
it, had to pass through an immense number of reeds, which greatly
obstructed our road. We were, moreover, fearful of treading on the
deadly serpents who choose such retreats. We made Turk walk before us to
give notice, and I cut a long, thick cane as a weapon of defence. I was
surprised to see a glutinous juice oozing from the end of the cut cane;
I tasted it, and was convinced that we had met with a plantation of
sugar-canes. I sucked more of it, and found myself singularly refreshed.
I said nothing to Fritz, that he might have the pleasure of making the
discovery himself. He was walking a few paces before me, and I called to
him to cut himself a cane like mine, which he did, and soon found out
the riches it contained. He cried out in ecstasy, "Oh, papa! papa! syrup
of sugar-cane! delicious! How delighted will dear mamma, and my brothers
be, when I carry some to them!" He went on, sucking pieces of cane so
greedily, that I checked him, recommending moderation. He was then
content to take some pieces to regale himself as he walked home, loading
himself with a huge burden for his mother and brothers. We now entered
the wood of palms to eat our dinner, when suddenly a number of monkeys,
alarmed by our approach, and the barking of the dog, fled like lightning
to the tops of the trees; and then grinned frightfully at us, with loud
cries of defiance. As I saw the trees were cocoa-palms, I hoped to
obtain, by means of the monkeys, a supply of the nuts in the half-ripe
state, when filled with milk. I held Fritz's arm, who was preparing to
shoot at them, to his great vexation, as he was irritated against the
poor monkeys for their derisive gestures; but I told him, that though no
patron of monkeys myself, I could not allow it. We had no right to kill
any animal except in defence, or as a means of supporting life. Besides,
the monkeys would be of more use to us living than dead, as I would show
him. I began to throw stones at the monkeys, not being able, of course,
to reach the place of their retreat, and they, in their anger, and in
the spirit of imitation, gathered the nuts and hurled them on us in such
quantities, that we had some difficulty in escaping from them. We had
soon a large stock of cocoa-nuts. Fritz enjoyed the success of the
stratagem, and, when the shower subsided, he collected as many as he
wished. We then sat down, and tasted some of the milk through the three
small holes, which we opened with our knives. We then divided some with
our hatchets, and quenched our thirst with the liquor, which has not,
however, a very agreeable flavour. We liked best a sort of thick cream
which adheres to the shells, from which we scraped it with our spoons,
and mixing it with the juice of the sugar-cane, we produced a delicious
dish. Turk had the rest of the lobster, which we now despised, with
We then got up, I tied some nuts together by their stems, and threw
them over my shoulder. Fritz took his bundle of canes, and we set out
* * * * *
Fritz groaned heavily under the weight of his canes as we travelled on,
and pitied the poor negroes, who had to carry such heavy burdens of
them. He then, in imitation of me, tried to refresh himself by sucking a
sugar-cane, but was surprised to find he failed in extracting any of the
juice. At last, after some reflection, he said, "Ah! I remember, if
there is no opening made for the air, I can get nothing out." I
requested him to find a remedy for this.
"I will make an opening," said he, "above the first knot in the cane. If
I draw in my breath in sucking, and thus make a vacuum in my mouth, the
outer air then forces itself through the hole I have made to fill this
vacuum, and carries the juice along with it; and when this division of
the cane is emptied, I can proceed to pierce above the next knot. I am
only afraid that going on this way we shall have nothing but empty canes
to carry to our friends." I told him, that I was more afraid the sun
might turn the syrup sour before we got our canes home; therefore we
need not spare them.
"Well, at any rate," said he, "I have filled my flask with the milk of
the cocoa-nut to regale them."
I told him I feared another disappointment; for the milk of the
cocoa-nut, removed from the shell, spoiled sooner than the sugar-cane
juice. I warned him that the milk, exposed to the sun in his tin flask,
was probably become vinegar.
He instantly took the bottle from his shoulder and uncorked it; when the
liquor flew out with a report, foaming like champaign.
I congratulated him on his new manufacture, and said, we must beware of
"Oh, taste, papa!" said he, "it is delicious, not at all like vinegar,
but capital new, sweet, sparkling wine. This will be the best treat, if
it remains in this state."
"I fear it will not be so," said I. "This is the first stage of
fermentation. When this is over, and the liquor is cleared, it is a sort
of wine, or fermented liquor, more or less agreeable, according to the
material used. By applying heat, a second, and slower fermentation
succeeds, and the liquor becomes vinegar. Then comes on a third stage,
which deprives it of its strength, and spoils it. I fear, in this
burning climate, you will carry home only vinegar, or something still
more offensive. But let us drink each other's health now, but prudently,
or we shall soon feel the effects of this potent beverage." Perfectly
refreshed, we went on cheerfully to the place where we had left our
gourd utensils. We found them quite dry, and hard as bone; we had no
difficulty in carrying them in our game-bags. We had scarcely got
through the little wood where we had breakfasted, when Turk darted
furiously on a troop of monkeys, who were sporting about, and had not
perceived him. He immediately seized a female, holding a young one in
her arms, which impeded her flight, and had killed and devoured the poor
mother before we could reach him. The young one had hidden itself among
the long grass, when Fritz arrived; he had run with all his might,
losing his hat, bottle, and canes, but could not prevent the murder of
the poor mother.
The little monkey no sooner saw him than it leaped upon his shoulders,
fastening its paws in his curls, and neither cries, threats, nor shaking
could rid him of it. I ran up to him laughing, for I saw the little
creature could not hurt him, and tried in vain to disengage it. I told
him he must carry it thus. It was evident the sagacious little creature,
having lost its mother, had adopted him for a father.
I succeeded, at last, in quietly releasing him, and took the little
orphan, which was no bigger than a cat, in my arms, pitying its
helplessness. The mother appeared as tall as Fritz.
I was reluctant to add another mouth to the number we had to feed; but
Fritz earnestly begged to keep it, offering to divide his share of
cocoa-nut milk with it till we had our cows. I consented, on condition
that he took care of it, and taught it to be obedient to him.
Turk, in the mean time, was feasting on the remains of the unfortunate
mother. Fritz would have driven him off, but I saw we had not food
sufficient to satisfy this voracious animal, and we might ourselves be
in danger from his appetite.
We left him, therefore, with his prey, the little orphan sitting on the
shoulder of his protector, while I carried the canes. Turk soon overtook
us, and was received very coldly; we reproached him with his cruelty,
but he was quite unconcerned, and continued to walk after Fritz. The
little monkey seemed uneasy at the sight of him, and crept into Fritz's
bosom, much to his inconvenience. But a thought struck him; he tied the
monkey with a cord to Turk's back, leading the dog by another cord, as
he was very rebellious at first; but our threats and caresses at last
induced him to submit to his burden. We proceeded slowly, and I could
not help anticipating the mirth of my little ones, when they saw us
approach like a pair of show-men.
I advised Fritz not to correct the dogs for attacking and killing
unknown animals. Heaven bestows the dog on man, as well as the horse,
for a friend and protector. Fritz thought we were very fortunate, then,
in having two such faithful dogs; he only regretted that our horses had
died on the passage, and only left us the ass.
"Let us not disdain the ass," said I; "I wish we had him here; he is of
a very fine breed, and would be as useful as a horse to us."
In such conversations, we arrived at the banks of our river before we
were aware. Flora barked to announce our approach, and Turk answered so
loudly, that the terrified little monkey leaped from his back to the
shoulder of its protector, and would not come down. Turk ran off to meet
his companion, and our dear family soon appeared on the opposite shore,
shouting with joy at our happy return. We crossed at the same place as
we had done in the morning, and embraced each other. Then began such a
noise of exclamations. "A monkey! a real, live monkey! Ah! how
delightful! How glad we are! How did you catch him?"
"He is very ugly," said little Francis, who was almost afraid of him.
"He is prettier than you are," said Jack; "see how he laughs! how I
should like to see him eat!"
"If we only had some cocoa-nuts," said Ernest. "Have you found any, and
are they good?"
"Have you had any unpleasant adventures?" asked my wife.
It was in vain to attempt replying to so many questions and
At length, when we got a little peace, I told them that, though I had
brought them all sorts of good things, I had, unfortunately, not met
with any of our companions.
"God's will be done!" said my wife; "let us thank Him for saving us, and
again bringing us together now. This day has seemed an age. But put down
your loads, and let us hear your adventures; we have not been idle, but
we are less fatigued than you. Boys, assist your father and brother."
Jack took my gun, Ernest the cocoa-nuts, Francis the gourd-rinds, and my
wife the game-bag. Fritz distributed his sugar-canes, and placed the
monkey on Turk's back, to the amusement of the children. He begged
Ernest to carry his gun, but he complained of being overloaded with the
great bowls. His indulgent mother took them from him, and we proceeded
to the tent.
Fritz thought Ernest would not have relinquished the bowls, if he had
known what they contained, and called out to tell him they were
"Give them to me," cried Ernest. "I will carry them, mamma, and the gun
His mother declined giving them.
"I can throw away these sticks," said he, "and carry the gun in my
"I would advise you not," observed Fritz, "for the sticks are
"Sugar-canes!" cried they all, surrounding Fritz, who had to give them
the history, and teach them the art of sucking the canes.
My wife, who had a proper respect for sugar in her housekeeping, was
much pleased with this discovery, and the history of all our
acquisitions, which I displayed to her. Nothing gave her so much
pleasure as our plates and dishes, which were actual necessaries. We
went to our kitchen, and were gratified to see preparations going on for
a good supper. My wife had planted a forked stick on each side the
hearth; on these rested a long thin wand, on which all sorts of fish
were roasting, Francis being intrusted to turn the spit. On the other
side was impaled a goose on another spit, and a row of oyster-shells
formed the dripping-pan: besides this, the iron pot was on the fire,
from which arose the savoury odour of a good soup. Behind the hearth
stood one of the hogsheads, opened, and containing the finest Dutch
cheeses, enclosed in cases of lead. All this was very tempting to hungry
travellers, and very unlike a supper on a desert island. I could not
think my family had been idle, when I saw such a result of their
labours; I was only sorry they had killed the goose, as I wished to be
economical with our poultry.
"Have no uneasiness," said my wife, "this is not from our poultry-yard,
it is a wild goose, killed by Ernest."
"It is a sort of penguin, I believe," said Ernest, "distinguished by
the name of _booby_, and so stupid, that I knocked it down with a stick.
It is web-footed, has a long narrow beak, a little curved downwards. I
have preserved the head and neck for you to examine; it exactly
resembles the penguin of my book of natural history."
I pointed out to him the advantages of study, and was making more
inquiries about the form and habits of the bird, when my wife requested
me to defer my catechism of natural history.
"Ernest has killed the bird," added she; "I received it; we shall eat
it. What more would you have? Let the poor child have the pleasure of
examining and tasting the cocoa-nuts."
"Very well," replied I, "Fritz must teach them how to open them; and we
must not forget the little monkey, who has lost his mother's milk."
"I have tried him," cried Jack, "and he will eat nothing."
I told them he had not yet learnt to eat, and we must feed him with
cocoa-nut milk till we could get something better. Jack generously
offered all his share, but Ernest and Francis were anxious to taste the
"But the monkey must live," said Jack, petulantly.
"And so must we all," said mamma. "Supper is ready, and we will reserve
the cocoa-nuts for dessert."
We sat down on the ground, and the supper was served on our gourd-rind
service, which answered the purpose admirably. My impatient boys had
broken the nuts, which they found excellent, and they made themselves
spoons of the shell. Jack had taken care the monkey had his share; they
dipped the corner of their handkerchiefs in the milk, and let him suck
them. They were going to break up some more nuts, after emptying them
through the natural holes, but I stopped them, and called for a saw. I
carefully divided the nuts with this instrument, and soon provided us
each with a neat basin for our soup, to the great comfort of my dear
wife, who was gratified by seeing us able to eat like civilized beings.
Fritz begged now to enliven the repast by introducing his champaign. I
consented; requesting him, however, to taste it himself before he served
it. What was his mortification to find it vinegar! But we consoled
ourselves by using it as sauce to our goose; a great improvement also to
the fish. We had now to hear the history of our supper. Jack and Francis
had caught the fish at the edge of the sea. My active wife had performed
the most laborious duty, in rolling the hogshead to the place and
breaking open the head.
The sun was going down as we finished supper, and, recollecting how
rapidly night succeeded, we hastened to our tent, where we found our
beds much more comfortable, from the kind attention of the good mother,
who had collected a large addition of dried grass. After prayers, we all
lay down; the monkey between Jack and Fritz, carefully covered with moss
to keep him warm. The fowls went to their roost, as on the previous
night, and, after our fatigue, we were all soon in a profound sleep.
We had not slept long, when a great commotion among the dogs and fowls
announced the presence of an enemy. My wife, Fritz, and I, each seizing
a gun, rushed out.
By the light of the moon, we saw a terrible battle going on: our brave
dogs were surrounded by a dozen jackals, three or four were extended
dead, but our faithful animals were nearly overpowered by numbers when
we arrived. I was glad to find nothing worse than jackals; Fritz and I
fired on them; two fell dead, and the others fled slowly, evidently
wounded. Turk and Flora pursued and completed the business, and then,
like true dogs, devoured their fallen foes, regardless of the bonds of
All being quiet again, we retired to our beds; Fritz obtaining leave to
drag the jackal he had killed towards the tent, to save it from the
dogs, and to show to his brothers next morning. This he accomplished
with difficulty, for it was as big as a large dog.
We all slept peacefully the remainder of the night, till the crowing of
the cock awoke my wife and myself to a consultation on the business
of the day.
* * * * *
"Well, my dear," I began, "I feel rather alarmed at all the labours I
see before me. A voyage to the vessel is indispensable, if we wish to
save our cattle, and many other things that may be useful to us; on the
other hand, I should like to have a more secure shelter for ourselves
and our property than this tent."
"With patience, order, and perseverance, all may be done," said my good
counsellor; "and whatever uneasiness your voyage may give me, I yield to
the importance and utility of it. Let it be done to-day; and have no
care for the morrow: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, as our
blessed Lord has said."
It was then agreed that the three youngest children should remain with
my wife; and Fritz, the strongest and most active, should accompany me.
I then arose, and woke my children for the important duties of the day.
Fritz jumped up the first, and ran for his jackal, which had stiffened
in the cold of the night. He placed it on its four legs, at the entrance
of the tent, to surprise his brothers; but no sooner did the dogs see it
erect, than they flew at it, and would have torn it to pieces, if he had
not soothed them and called them off. However, their barking effectually
roused the boys, who rushed out to see the cause. Jack issued first with
the monkey on his shoulder; but no sooner did the little creature see
the jackal, than he sprang into the tent, and hid himself among the
moss, till only the tip of his nose was visible. All were astonished to
see this large yellow animal standing; Francis thought it was a wolf;
Jack said it was only a dead dog, and Ernest, in a pompous tone,
pronounced it to be a golden fox.
Fritz laughed at the learned professor, who knew the agouti immediately,
and now called a jackal a golden fox!
"I judged by the peculiar characteristics," said Ernest, examining it
"Oh! the characteristics!" said Fritz, ironically, "don't you think it
may be a golden wolf?"
"Pray don't be so cross, brother," said Ernest, with tears in his eyes,
"perhaps you would not have known the name, if papa had not told you."
I reproved Fritz for his ridicule of his brother, and Ernest for so
easily taking offence; and, to reconcile all, I told them that the
jackal partook of the nature of the wolf, the fox, and the dog. This
discussion terminated, I summoned them to prayers, after which we
thought of breakfast. We had nothing but biscuit, which was certainly
dry and hard. Fritz begged for a little cheese with it; and Ernest, who
was never satisfied like other people, took a survey of the unopened
hogshead. He soon returned, crying "If we only had a little butter with
our biscuit, it would be so good, papa!"
I allowed it would be good, but it was no use thinking of such a thing.
"Let us open the other cask," said he, displaying a piece of butter he
had extracted through a small crack on the side.
"Your instinct for good things has been fortunate for us," said I.
"Come, boys, who wants bread and butter?"
We began to consider how we should come at the contents of the hogshead,
without exposing the perishable matter to the heat of the sun. Finally,
I pierced a hole in the lower part of the cask, large enough for us to
draw out the butter as we wanted it, by means of a little wooden shovel,
which I soon made. We then sat down to breakfast with a cocoa-nut basin
filled with good salt Dutch butter. We toasted our biscuit, buttered it
hot, and agreed that it was excellent. Our dogs were sleeping by us as
we breakfasted; and I remarked that they had bloody marks of the last
night's fray, in some deep and dangerous wounds, especially about the
neck; my wife instantly dressed the wounds with butter, well washed in
cold water; and the poor animals seemed grateful for the ease it gave
them. Ernest judiciously remarked, that they ought to have spiked
collars, to defend them from any wild beasts they might encounter.
"I will make them collars," said Jack, who never hesitated at anything.
I was glad to employ his inventive powers; and, ordering my children,
not to leave their mother, during our absence, but to pray to God to
bless our undertaking, we began our preparations for the voyage.
While Fritz made ready the boat, I erected a signal-post, with a piece
of sailcloth for a flag, to float as long as all was going on well; but
if we were wanted, they were to lower the flag, and fire a gun three
times, when we would immediately return; for I had informed my dear wife
it might be necessary for us to remain on board all night; and she
consented to the plan, on my promising to pass the night in our tubs,
instead of the vessel. We took nothing but our guns and ammunition;
relying on the ship's provisions. Fritz would, however, take the monkey,
that he might give it some milk from the cow.
We took a tender leave of each other, and embarked. When we had rowed
into the middle of the bay, I perceived a strong current formed by the
water of the river which issued at a little distance, which I was glad
to take advantage of, to spare our labour. It carried us three parts of
our voyage, and we rowed the remainder; and entering the opening in the
vessel, we secured our boat firmly, and went on board.
The first care of Fritz was to feed the animals, who were on deck, and
who all saluted us after their fashion, rejoiced to see their friends
again, as well as to have their wants supplied. We put the young monkey
to a goat, which he sucked with extraordinary grimaces, to our infinite
amusement. We then took some refreshment ourselves, and Fritz, to my
great surprise, proposed that we should begin by adding a sail to our
boat. He said the current which helped us to the vessel, could not carry
us back, but the wind which blew so strongly against us, and made our
rowing so fatiguing, would be of great service, if we had a sail.
I thanked my counsellor for his good advice, and we immediately set to
the task. I selected a strong pole for a mast, and a triangular sail,
which was fixed to a yard. We made a hole in a plank, to receive the
mast, secured the plank on our fourth tub, forming a deck, and then, by
aid of a block used to hoist and lower the sails, raised our mast.
Finally, two ropes fastened by one end to the yard, and by the other to
each extremity of the boat, enabled us to direct the sail at pleasure.
Fritz next ornamented the top of the mast with a little red streamer. He
then gave our boat the name of the _Deliverance_, and requested it might
henceforward be called the little vessel. To complete its equipment, I
contrived a rudder, so that I could direct the boat from either end.
After signalling to our friends that we should not return that night, we
spent the rest of the day in emptying the tubs of the stones we had used
for ballast, and replacing them with useful things. Powder and shot,
nails and tools of all kinds, pieces of cloth; above all, we did not
forget knives, forks, spoons, and kitchen utensils, including a
roasting-jack. In the captain's cabin we found some services of silver,
pewter plates and dishes, and a small chest filled with bottles of
choice wines. All these we took, as well as a chest of eatables,
intended for the officers' table, portable soup, Westphalian hams,
Bologna sausages, &c.; also some bags of maize, wheat, and other seeds,
and some potatoes. We collected all the implements of husbandry we could
spare room for, and, at the request of Fritz, some hammocks and
blankets; two or three handsome guns, and an armful of sabres, swords,
and hunting-knives. Lastly, I embarked a barrel of sulphur, all the cord
and string I could lay my hands on, and a large roll of sailcloth. The
sulphur was intended to produce matches with. Our tubs were loaded to
the edge; there was barely room left for us to sit, and it would have
been dangerous to attempt our return if the sea had not been so calm.
Night arrived, we exchanged signals, to announce security on sea and
land, and, after prayers for the dear islanders, we sought our tubs, not
the most luxurious of dormitories, but safer than the ship. Fritz slept
soundly; but I could not close my eyes, thinking of the jackals. I was,
however, thankful for the protection they had in the dogs.
* * * * *
As soon as day broke, I mounted on deck, to look through the telescope.
I saw my wife looking towards us; and the flag, which denoted their
safety, floating in the breeze. Satisfied on this important point, we
enjoyed our breakfast of biscuit, ham, and wine, and then turned our
thoughts to the means of saving our cattle. Even if we could contrive a
raft, we could never get all the animals to remain still on it. We might
venture the huge sow in the water, but the rest of the animals we found
would not be able to swim to shore. At last Fritz suggested the swimming
apparatus. We passed two hours in constructing them. For the cow and ass
it was necessary to have an empty cask on each side, well bound in
strong sailcloth, fastened by leather thongs over the back and under
each animal. For the rest, we merely tied a piece of cork under their
bodies; the sow only being unruly, and giving us much trouble. We then
fastened a cord to the horns or neck of each animal, with a slip of wood
at the end, for a convenient handle. Luckily, the waves had broken away
part of the ship, and left the opening wide enough for the passage of
our troop. We first launched the ass into the water, by a sudden push;
he swam away, after the first plunge, very gracefully. The cow, sheep,
and goats, followed quietly after. The sow was furious, and soon broke
loose from us all, but fortunately reached the shore long before
We now embarked, fastening all the slips of wood to the stern of the
boat, thus drawing our train after us; and the wind filling our sail,
carried us smoothly towards the shore. Fritz exulted in his plan, as we
certainly could never have rowed our boat, loaded as we were. I once
more took out my telescope, and was remarking that our party on shore
seemed making ready for some excursion, when a loud cry from Fritz
filled me with terror. "We are lost! we are lost! see, what a monstrous
fish!" Though pale with alarm, the bold boy had seized his gun, and,
encouraged by my directions, he fired two balls into the head of the
monster, as it was preparing to dart on the sheep. It immediately made
its escape, leaving a long red track to prove that it was
Being freed from our enemy, I now resumed the rudder, and we lowered the
sail and rowed to shore. The animals, as soon as the water became low
enough, walked out at their own discretion, after we had relieved them
from their swimming girdles. We then secured our boat as before, and
landed ourselves, anxiously looking round for our friends.
We had not long to wait, they came joyfully to greet us; and, after our
first burst of pleasure, we sat down to tell our adventures in a regular
form. My wife was overjoyed to see herself surrounded by these valuable
animals; and especially pleased that her son Fritz had suggested so
many useful plans. We next proceeded to disembark all our treasures. I
noticed that Jack wore a belt of yellow skin, in which were placed a
pair of pistols, and inquired where he had got his brigand costume.
"I manufactured it myself," said he; "and this is not all. Look at the
The dogs wore each a collar of the same skin as his belt, bristling with
long nails, the points outwards--a formidable defence.
"It is my own invention," said he; "only mamma helped me in the sewing."
"But where did you get the leather, the needle and thread?" inquired I.
"Fritz's jackal supplied the skin," said my wife, "and my wonderful bag
the rest. There is still more to come from it, only say what you want."
Fritz evidently felt a little vexation at his brother's unceremonious
appropriation of the skin of the jackal, which displayed itself in the
tone in which he exclaimed, holding his nose, "Keep at a distance, Mr.
Skinner, you carry an intolerable smell about with you."
I gave him a gentle hint of his duty in the position of eldest son, and
he soon recovered his good humour. However, as the body as well as the
skin of the jackal was becoming offensive, they united in dragging it
down to the sea, while Jack placed his belt in the sun to dry.
As I saw no preparation for supper, I told Fritz to bring the ham; and,
to the astonishment and joy of all, he returned with a fine Westphalian
ham, which we had cut into in the morning.
"I will tell you," said my wife, "why we have no supper prepared; but
first, I will make you an omelet;" and she produced from a basket a
dozen turtle's eggs.
"You see," said Ernest, "they have all the characteristics of those
Robinson Crusoe had in his island. They are white balls, the skin of
which resembles moistened parchment."
My wife promised to relate the history of the discovery after supper,
and set about preparing her ham and omelet, while Fritz and I proceeded
in unloading our cargo, assisted by the useful ass.
Supper was now ready. A tablecloth was laid over the butter-cask, and
spread with the plates and spoons from the ship. The ham was in the
middle, and the omelet and cheese at each end; and we made a good meal,
surrounded by our subjects,--the dogs, the fowls, the pigeons, the
sheep, and the goats, waiting for our notice. The geese and ducks were
more independent, remaining in their marsh, where they lived in plenty
on the small crabs which abounded there.
After supper, I sent Fritz for a bottle of the captain's Canary wine,
and then requested my wife to give us her recital.
* * * * *
"I will spare you the history of the first day," said my good Elizabeth,
"spent in anxiety about you, and attending to the signals; but this
morning, being satisfied that all was going right, I sought, before the
boys got up, a shady place to rest in, but in vain; I believe this
barren shore has not a single tree on it. Then I began to consider on
the necessity of searching for a more comfortable spot for our
residence; and determined, after a slight repast, to set out with my
children across the river, on a journey of discovery. The day before,
Jack had busied himself in skinning the jackal with his knife, sharpened
on the rock; Ernest declining to assist him in his dirty work, for which
I reproved him, sorry that any fastidiousness should deter him from a
labour of benefit to society.
"Jack proceeded to clean the skin as well as he was able; then procured
from the nail-chest some long flat-headed nails, and inserted them
closely through the long pieces of skin he had cut for collars; he then
cut some sailcloth, and made a double lining over the heads of the
nails; and finished by giving me the delicate office of sewing them
together, which I could not but comply with.
"His belt he first stretched on a plank, nailing it down, and exposing
it to the sun, lest it should shrink in drying.
"Now for our journey: we took our game-bags and some hunting-knives. The
boys carried provisions, and I had a large flask of water. I took a
small hatchet, and gave Ernest a carbine, which might be loaded with
ball; keeping his light gun for myself. I carefully secured the opening
of the tent with the hooks. Turk went before, evidently considering
himself our guide; and we crossed the river with some difficulty.
"As we proceeded, I could not help feeling thankful that you had so
early taught the boys to use fire-arms properly, as the defence of my
youngest boy and myself now depended on the two boys of ten and twelve
years of age.
"When we attained the hill you described to us, I was charmed with the
smiling prospect, and, for the first time since our shipwreck, ventured
to hope for better things. I had remarked a beautiful wood, to which I
determined to make our way, for a little shade, and a most painful
progress it was, through grass that was higher than the children's
heads. As we were struggling through it, we heard a strange rustling
sound among the grass, and at the same moment a bird of prodigious size
rose, and flew away, before the poor boys could get their guns ready.
They were much mortified, and I recommended them always to have their
guns in readiness, for the birds would not be likely to wait till they
loaded them. Francis thought the bird was so large, it must be an eagle;
but Ernest ridiculed the idea, and added that he thought it must be of
the bustard tribe. We went forward to the spot from which it had arisen,
when suddenly another bird of the same kind, though still larger, sprung
up, close to our feet, and was soon soaring above our heads. I could not
help laughing to see the look of astonishment and confusion with which
the boys looked upwards after it. At last Jack took off his hat, and,
making a low bow, said, 'Pray, Mr. Bird, be kind enough to pay us
another visit, you will find us very good children!' We found the large
nest they had left; it was rudely formed of dry grass, and empty, but
some fragments of egg-shells were scattered near, as if the young had
been recently hatched; we therefore concluded that they had escaped
among the grass.
"Doctor Ernest immediately began a lecture. 'You observe, Francis, these
birds could not be eagles, which do not form their nests on the ground.
Neither do their young run as soon as they are hatched. These must be of
the _gallinaceous_ tribe, an order of birds such as quails, partridges,
turkeys, &c.; and, from the sort of feathered moustache which I observed
at the corner of the beak, I should pronounce that these were bustards.'
"But we had now reached the little wood, and our learned friend had
sufficient employment in scrutinizing, and endeavouring to classify, the
immense number of beautiful, unknown birds, which sung and fluttered
about us, apparently regardless of our intrusion.
"We found that what we thought a wood was merely a group of a dozen
trees, of a height far beyond any I had ever seen; and apparently
belonging rather to the air than the earth; the trunks springing from
roots which formed a series of supporting arches. Jack climbed one of
the arches, and measured the trunk of the tree with a piece of
packthread. He found it to be thirty-four feet. I made thirty-two steps
round the roots. Between the roots and the lowest branches, it seemed
about forty or fifty feet. The branches are thick and strong, and the
leaves are of a moderate size, and resemble our walnut-tree. A thick,
short, smooth turf clothed the ground beneath and around the detached
roots of the trees, and everything combined to render this one of the
most delicious spots the mind could conceive.
"Here we rested, and made our noon-day repast; a clear rivulet ran near
us, and offered its agreeable waters for our refreshment. Our dogs soon
joined us; but I was astonished to find they did not crave for food, but
laid down to sleep at our feet. For myself, so safe and happy did I
feel, that I could not but think that if we could contrive a dwelling on
the branches of one of these trees, we should be in perfect peace and
safety. We set out on our return, taking the road by the sea-shore, in
case the waves had cast up anything from the wreck of the vessel. We
found a quantity of timber, chests, and casks; but all too heavy to
bring. We succeeded in dragging them, as well as we could, out of the
reach of the tide; our dogs, in the mean time, fishing for crabs, with
which they regaled themselves, much to their own satisfaction and to
mine, as I now saw they would be able to provide their own food. As we
rested from our rough labour, I saw Flora scratching in the sand, and
swallowing something with great relish. Ernest watched, and then said,
very quietly, 'They are turtles' eggs.' We drove away the dog, and
collected about two dozen, leaving her the rest as a reward for her
"While we were carefully depositing our spoil in the game-bags, we were
astonished at the sight of a sail. Ernest was certain it was papa and
Fritz, and though Francis was in dread that it should be the savages who
visited Robinson Crusoe's island, coming to eat us up, we were soon
enabled to calm his fears. We crossed the river by leaping from stone to
stone, and, hastening to the landing-place, arrived to greet you on
your happy return."
"And I understand, my dear," said I, "that you have discovered a tree
sixty feet high, where you wish we should perch like fowls. But how are
we to get up?"
"Oh! you must remember," answered she, "the large lime-tree near our
native town, in which was a ball-room. We used to ascend to it by a
wooden staircase. Could you not contrive something of the sort in one of
these gigantic trees, where we might sleep in peace, fearing neither
jackals nor any other terrible nocturnal enemy."
I promised to consider this plan, hoping at least that we might make a
commodious and shady dwelling among the roots. To-morrow we were to
examine it. We then performed our evening devotions, and retired
* * * * *
"Now, my dear Elizabeth," said I, waking early next morning, "let us
talk a little on this grand project of changing our residence; to which
there are many objections. First, it seems wise to remain on the spot
where Providence has cast us, where we can have at once means of support
drawn from the ship, and security from all attacks, protected by the
rock, the river, and the sea on all sides."
My wife distrusted the river, which could not protect us from the
jackals, and complained of the intolerable heat of this sandy desert, of
her distaste for such food as oysters and wild geese; and, lastly, of
her agony of mind, when we ventured to the wreck; willingly renouncing
all its treasures, and begging we might rest content with the blessings
we already had.
"There is some truth in your objections," said I, "and perhaps we may
erect a dwelling under the roots of your favourite tree; but among these
rocks we must have a storehouse for our goods, and a retreat in case of
invasion. I hope, by blowing off some pieces of the rock with powder, to
be able to fortify the part next the river, leaving a secret passage
known only to ourselves. This would make it impregnable. But before we
proceed, we must have a bridge to convey our baggage across the river.
"A bridge," said she, in a tone of vexation; "then when shall we get
from here? Why cannot we ford it as usual? The cow and ass could carry
I explained to her how necessary it was for our ammunition and provision
to be conveyed over without risk of wetting, and begged her to
manufacture some bags and baskets, and leave the bridge to me and my
boys. If we succeeded, it would always be useful; as for fear of danger
from lightning or accident, I intended to make a powder-magazine among
The important question was now decided. I called up my sons, and
communicated our plans to them. They were greatly delighted, though
somewhat alarmed, at the formidable project of the bridge; besides, the
delay was vexatious; they were all anxious for a removal into the _Land
of Promise_, as they chose to call it.
We read prayers, and then thought of breakfast. The monkey sucked one of
the goats, as if it had been its mother. My wife milked the cow, and
gave us boiled milk with biscuit for our breakfast; part of which she
put in a flask, for us to take on our expedition. We then prepared our
boat for a voyage to the vessel, to procure planks and timber for our
bridge. I took both Ernest and Fritz, as I foresaw our cargo would be
weighty, and require all our hands to bring it to shore.
We rowed vigorously till we got into the current, which soon carried us
beyond the bay. We had scarcely reached a little isle at the entrance,
when we saw a vast number of gulls and other sea-birds, fluttering with
discordant cries over it. I hoisted the sail, and we approached rapidly;
and, when near enough, we stepped on shore, and saw that the birds were
feasting so eagerly on the remains of a huge fish, that they did not
even notice our approach. We might have killed numbers, even with our
sticks. This fish was the shark which Fritz had so skilfully shot
through the head the night before. He found the marks of his three
balls. Ernest drew his ramrod from his gun, and struck so vigorously
right and left among the birds, that he killed some, and put the rest to
flight. We then hastily cut off some pieces of the skin of the monster,
which I thought might be useful, and placed them in our boat. But this
was not the only advantage we gained by landing. I perceived an immense
quantity of wrecked timber lying on the shore of the island, which
would spare us our voyage to the ship. We selected such planks as were
fit for our purpose; then, by the aid of our _jack-screw_ and some
levers we had brought with us, we extricated the planks from the sand,
and floated them; and, binding the spars and yards together with cords,
with the planks above them, like a raft, we tied them to the stern of
our boat, and hoisted our sail.
Fritz, as we sailed, was drying the shark's skin, which I hoped to
convert into files. And Ernest, in his usual reflective manner, observed
to me, "What a beautiful arrangement of Providence it is, that the mouth
of the shark should be placed in such a position that he is compelled to
turn on his back to seize his prey, thus giving it a chance of escape;
else, with his excessive voracity, he might depopulate the ocean."
At last, we reached our landing-place, and, securing our boat, and
calling out loudly, we soon saw our friends running from the river; each
carried a handkerchief filled with some new acquisition, and Francis had
over his shoulder a small fishing-net. Jack reached us first, and threw
down before us from his handkerchief some fine crawfish. They had each
as many, forming a provision for many days.
Francis claimed the merit of the discovery. Jack related, that Francis
and he took a walk to find a good place for the bridge.
"Thank you, Mr. Architect," said I; "then you must superintend the
workmen. Have you fixed on your place?"
"Yes, yes!" cried he; "only listen. When we got to the river, Francis,
who was looking about, called out, 'Jack! Jack! Fritz's jackal is
covered with crabs! Come!--come!' I ran to tell mamma, who brought a net
that came from the ship, and we caught these in a few minutes, and could
have got many more, if you had not come."
I commanded them to put the smaller ones back into the river, reserving
only as many as we could eat. I was truly thankful to discover another
means of support.
We now landed our timber. I had looked at Jack's site for the bridge,
and thought my little architect very happy in his selection; but it was
at a great distance from the timber. I recollected the simplicity of the
harness the Laplanders used for their reindeer. I tied cords to the
horns of the cow--as the strength of this animal is in the head--and
then fastened the other ends round the piece of timber we wanted moving.
I placed a halter round the neck of the ass, and attached the cords to
this. We were thus enabled, by degrees, to remove all our wood to the
chosen spot, where the sides of the river were steep, and appeared of
It was necessary to know the breadth of the river, to select the proper
planks; and Ernest proposed to procure a ball of packthread from his
mother, to tie a stone to one end of the string, and throw it across the
river, and to measure it after drawing it back. This expedient succeeded
admirably. We found the breadth to be eighteen feet; but, as I proposed
to give the bridge strength by having three feet, at least, resting on
each shore, we chose some planks of twenty-four feet in length. How we
were to get these across the river was another question, which we
prepared to discuss during dinner, to which my wife now summoned us.
Our dinner consisted of a dish of crawfish, and some very good
rice-milk. But, before we began, we admired her work. She had made a
pair of bags for the ass, sewed with packthread; but having no large
needles, she had been obliged to pierce holes with a nail, a tedious and
painful process. Well satisfied with her success, we turned to our
repast, talking of our bridge, which the boys, by anticipation, named
the _Nonpareil_. We then went to work.
There happened to be an old trunk of a tree standing on the shore. To
this I tied my main beam by a strong cord, loose enough to turn round
the trunk. Another cord was attached to the opposite end of the beam,
long enough to cross the river twice. I took the end of my rope over the
stream, where we had previously fixed the block, used in our boat, to a
tree, by the hook which usually suspended it. I passed my rope, and
returned with the end to our own side. I then harnessed my cow and ass
to the end of my rope, and drove them forcibly from the shore. The beam
turned slowly round the trunk, then advanced, and was finally lodged
over the river, amidst the shouts of the boys; its own weight keeping it
firm. Fritz and Jack leaped on it immediately to run across, to my
We succeeded in placing four strong beams in the same way; and, by the
aid of my sons, I arranged them at a convenient distance from each
other, that we might have a broad and good bridge. We then laid down
planks close together across the beams; but not fixed, as in time of
danger it might be necessary rapidly to remove the bridge. My wife and I
were as much excited as the children, and ran across with delight. Our
bridge was at least ten feet broad.
Thoroughly fatigued with our day of labour, we returned home, supped,
and offered thanks to God, and went to rest.
* * * * *
The next morning, after prayers, I assembled my family. We took a solemn
leave of our first place of refuge. I cautioned my sons to be prudent,
and on their guard; and especially to remain together during our
journey. We then prepared for departure. We assembled the cattle: the
bags were fixed across the backs of the cow and the ass, and loaded with
all our heavy baggage; our cooking utensils; and provisions, consisting
of biscuits, butter, cheese, and portable soup; our hammocks and
blankets; the captain's service of plate, were all carefully packed in
the bags, equally poised on each side the animals.
All was ready, when my wife came in haste with her inexhaustible bag,
requesting a place for it. Neither would she consent to leave the
poultry, as food for the jackals; above all, Francis must have a place;
he could not possibly walk all the way. I was amused with the exactions
of the sex; but consented to all, and made a good place for Francis
between the bags, on the back of the ass.
The elder boys returned in despair,--they could not succeed in catching
the fowls; but the experienced mother laughed at them, and said she
would soon capture them.
"If you do," said my pert little Jack, "I will be contented to be
roasted in the place of the first chicken taken."
"Then, my poor Jack," said his mother, "you will soon be on the spit.
Remember, that intellect has always more power than mere bodily
exertion. Look here!" She scattered a few handfuls of grain before the
tent, calling the fowls; they soon all assembled, including the pigeons;
then throwing more down inside the tent, they followed her. It was now
only necessary to close the entrance; and they were all soon taken, tied
by the wings and feet, and, being placed in baskets covered with nets,
were added to the rest of our luggage on the backs of the animals.
Finally, we conveyed inside the tent all we could not carry away,
closing the entrance, and barricading it with chests and casks, thus
confiding all our possessions to the care of God. We set out on our
pilgrimage, each carrying a game-bag and a gun. My wife and her eldest
son led the way, followed by the heavily-laden cow and ass; the third
division consisted of the goats, driven by Jack, the little monkey
seated on the back of its nurse, and grimacing, to our great amusement;
next came Ernest, with the sheep; and I followed, superintending the
whole. Our gallant dogs acted as _aides-de-camp,_ and were continually
passing from the front to the rear rank.
Our march was slow, but orderly, and quite patriarchal. "We are now
travelling across the deserts, as our first fathers did," said I, "and
as the Arabs, Tartars, and other nomade nations do to this day, followed
by their flocks and herds. But these people generally have strong camels
to bear their burdens, instead of a poor ass and cow. I hope this may be
the last of our pilgrimages." My wife also hoped that, once under the
shade of her marvellous trees, we should have no temptation to
We now crossed our new bridge, and here the party was happily augmented
by a new arrival. The sow had proved very mutinous at setting out, and
we had been compelled to leave her; she now voluntarily joined us,
seeing we were actually departing; but continued to grunt loudly her
disapprobation of our proceedings. After we had crossed the river, we
had another embarrassment. The rich grass tempted our animals to stray
off to feed, and, but for our dogs, we should never have been able to
muster them again. But, for fear of further accident, I commanded my
advanced guard to take the road by the coast, which offered no
temptation to our troops.
We had scarcely left the high grass when our dogs rushed back into it,
barking furiously, and howling as if in combat; Fritz immediately
prepared for action, Ernest drew near his mother, Jack rushed forward
with his gun over his shoulder, and I cautiously advanced, commanding
them to be discreet and cool. But Jack, with his usual impetuosity,
leaped among the high grass to the dogs; and immediately returned,
clapping his hands, and crying out, "Be quick, papa! a huge porcupine,
with quills as long as my arm!"
When I got up, I really found a porcupine, whom the dogs were warmly
attacking. It made a frightful noise, erecting its quills so boldly,
that the wounded animals howled with pain after every attempt to seize
it. As we were looking at them Jack drew a pistol from his belt, and
discharged it directly into the head of the porcupine, which fell dead.
Jack was very proud of his feat, and Fritz, not a little jealous,
suggested that such a little boy should not be trusted with pistols, as
he might have shot one of the dogs, or even one of us. I forbade any
envy or jealousy among the brothers, and declared that all did well who
acted for the public good. Mamma was now summoned to see the curious
animal her son's valour had destroyed. Her first thought was to dress
the wounds made by the quills which had stuck in the noses of the dogs
during their attack. In the mean time, I corrected my son's notions on
the power of this animal to lance its darts when in danger. This is a
popular error; nature has given it a sufficient protection in its
defensive and offensive armour.
As Jack earnestly desired to carry his booty with him, I carefully
imbedded the body in soft grass, to preserve the quills; then packed it
in strong cloth, and placed it on the ass behind Francis.
At last, we arrived at the end of our journey,--and, certainly, the size
of the trees surpassed anything I could have imagined. Jack was certain
they were gigantic walnut-trees; for my own part, I believed them to be
a species of fig-tree--probably the Antilles fig. But all thanks were
given to the kind mother who had sought out such a pleasant home for us;
at all events, we could find a convenient shelter among the roots. And,
if we should ever succeed in perching on the branches, I told her we
should be safe from all wild beasts. I would defy even the bears of our
native mountains to climb these immense trunks, totally destitute
We released our animals from their loads, tying their fore legs
together, that they might not stray; except the sow, who, as usual, did
her own way. The fowls and pigeons we released, and left to their own
discretion. We then sat down on the grass, to consider where we should
establish ourselves. I wished to mount the tree that very night.
Suddenly we heard, to our no slight alarm, the report of a gun. But the
next moment the voice of Fritz re-assured us. He had stolen out
unnoticed, and shot a beautiful tiger-cat, which he displayed in
"Well done, noble hunter!" said I; "you deserve the thanks of the fowls
and pigeons; they would most probably have all fallen a sacrifice
to-night, if you had not slain their deadly foe. Pray wage war with all
his kind, or we shall not have a chicken left for the pot."
Ernest then examined the animal with his customary attention, and
declared that the proper name was the _margay_, a fact Fritz did not
dispute, only requesting that Jack might not meddle with the skin, as he
wished to preserve it for a belt. I recommended them to skin it
immediately, and give the flesh to the dogs. Jack, at the same time,
determined to skin his porcupine, to make dog-collars. Part of its
flesh went into the soup-kettle, and the rest was salted for the next
day. We then sought for some flat stones in the bed of the charming
little river that ran at a little distance from us, and set about
constructing a cooking-place. Francis collected dry wood for the fire;
and, while my wife was occupied in preparing our supper, I amused myself
by making some packing-needles for her rude work from the quills of the
porcupine. I held a large nail in the fire till it was red-hot, then,
holding the head in wet linen, I pierced the quills, and made several
needles, of various sizes, to the great contentment of our indefatigable
Still occupied with the idea of our castle in the air, I thought of
making a ladder of ropes; but this would be useless, if we did not
succeed in getting a cord over the lower branches, to draw it up.
Neither my sons nor myself could throw a stone, to which I had fastened
a cord, over these branches, which were thirty feet above us. It was
necessary to think of some other expedient. In the mean time, dinner was
ready. The porcupine made excellent soup, and the flesh was well-tasted,
though rather hard. My wife could not make up her mind to taste it, but
contented herself with a slice of ham and some cheese.
* * * * *
After dinner, as I found we could not ascend at present, I suspended our
hammocks under the arched roots of our tree, and, covering the whole
with sailcloth, we had a shelter from the dew and the insects.
While my wife was employed making harness for the cow and ass, I went
with my sons to the shore, to look for wood fit for our use next day. We
saw a great quantity of wreck, but none fit for our purpose, till Ernest
met with a heap of bamboo canes, half buried in sand and mud. These were
exactly what I wanted. I drew them out of the sand, stripped them of
their leaves, cut them in pieces of about four or five feet long, and my
sons each made up a bundle to carry home. I then set out to seek some
slender stalks to make arrows, which I should need in my project.
We went towards a thick grove, which appeared likely to contain
something for my purpose. We were very cautious, for fear of reptiles or
other dangerous animals, allowing Flora to precede us. When we got near,
she darted furiously among the bushes, and out flew a troop of beautiful
flamingoes, and soared into the air. Fritz, always ready, fired at them.
Two fell; one quite dead, the other, slightly wounded in the wing, made
use of its long legs so well that it would have escaped, if Flora had
not seized it and held it till I came up to take possession. The joy of
Fritz was extreme, to have this beautiful creature alive. He thought at
once of curing its wound, and domesticating it with our own poultry.
"What splendid plumage!" said Ernest; "and you see he is web-footed,
like the goose, and has long legs like the stork; thus he can run as
fast on land as he can swim in the water,"
"Yes," said I, "and fly as quickly in the air. These birds are
remarkable for the power and strength of their wings. Few birds have so
My boys occupied themselves in binding their captive and dressing his
wound; while I sought some of the canes which had done flowering, to cut
off the hard ends, to point my arrows. These are used by the savages of
the Antilles. I then selected the highest canes I could meet with, to
assist me in measuring, by a geometrical process, the height of the
tree. Ernest took the canes, I had the wounded flamingo, and Fritz
carried his own game. Very loud were the cries of joy and astonishment
at our approach. The boys all hoped the flamingo might be tamed, of
which I felt no doubt; but my wife was uneasy, lest it should require
more food than she could spare. However, I assured her, our new guest
would need no attention, as he would provide for himself at the
river-side, feeding on small fishes, worms, and insects. His wounds I
dressed, and found they would soon be healed; I then tied him to a
stake, near the river, by a cord long enough to allow him to fish at his
pleasure, and, in fact, in a few days, he learned to know us, and was
quite domesticated. Meantime, my boys had been trying to measure the
tree with the long canes I had brought, and came laughing to report to
me, that I ought to have got them ten times as long to reach even the
lowest branches. "There is a simpler mode than that," said I, "which
geometry teaches us, and by which the highest mountains can be
I then showed the method of measuring heights by triangles and imaginary
lines, using canes of different lengths and cords instead of
mathematical instruments. My result was thirty feet to the lowest
branches. This experiment filled the boys with wonder and desire to
become acquainted with this useful, exact science, which, happily, I was
able to teach them fully.
I now ordered Fritz to measure our strong cord, and the little ones to
collect all the small string, and wind it. I then took a strong bamboo
and made a bow of it, and some arrows of the slender canes, filling them
with wet sand to give them weight, and feathering them from the dead
flamingo. As soon as my work was completed, the boys crowded round me,
all begging to try the bow and arrows. I begged them to be patient, and
asked my wife to supply me with a ball of thick strong thread. The
enchanted bag did not fail us; the very ball I wanted appeared at her
summons. This, my little ones declared, must be magic; but I explained
to them, that prudence, foresight, and presence of mind in danger, such
as their good mother had displayed, produced more miracles than magic.
I then tied the end of the ball of thread to one of my arrows, fixed it
in my bow, and sent it directly over one of the thickest of the lower
branches of the tree, and, falling to the ground, it drew the thread
after it. Charmed with this result, I hastened to complete my ladder.
Fritz had measured our ropes, and found two of forty feet each,--exactly
what I wanted. These I stretched on the ground at about one foot
distance from each other; Fritz cut pieces of cane two feet long, which
Ernest passed to me. I placed these in knots which I had made in the
cords, at about a foot distance from each other, and Jack fastened each
end with a long nail, to prevent it slipping. In a very short time our
ladder was completed; and, tying it to the end of the cord which went
over the branch, we drew it up without difficulty. All the boys were
anxious to ascend; but I chose Jack, as the lightest and most active.
Accordingly, he ascended, while his brothers and myself held the ladder
firm by the end of the cord. Fritz followed him, conveying a bag with
nails and hammer. They were soon perched on the branches, huzzaing to
us. Fritz secured the ladder so firmly to the branch, that I had no
hesitation in ascending myself. I carried with me a large pulley fixed
to the end of a rope, which I attached to a branch above us, to enable
us to raise the planks necessary to form the groundwork of our
habitation. I smoothed the branches a little by aid of my axe, sending
the boys down to be out of my way. After completing my day's work, I
descended by the light of the moon, and was alarmed to find that Fritz
and Jack were not below; and still more so, when I heard their clear,
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